As a young Malaysian living abroad, I must bashfully admit that I rarely read Malaysian news.
Perhaps it’s the typical college-student laziness, or the liberal arts hippie apathy, or the lack of interest in childish politicians screaming down each others’ throats, or the lack of respect for Malaysian news in general or the lack of time during the semester. Personally, I like the last excuse. Mostly because it’s the one external factor that defines my life, and one that I don’t really have to explain.
And so, in my lack of awareness, a friend directs me to read an online news site called, ‘The Malaysian Insider’. And the first article I click on? This, about contractors in Malaysia. While the article tried to tackle the possibility of corruption in awarding contracts, it was the last paragraph that caught my attention:
The Najib administration announced yesterday it will raise electricity prices by an average of 7.1 per cent from June 1.
The price charged by Petronas to power companies for the natural gas will rise to RM13.70 per mmBtu from RM10.70, and go up by RM3.00 every month until December 2015, after which market rates apply. (My emphasis)
That for me, is shocking, given the history that Malaysia has with petrol subsidies and the less-than-desirable $3300 average per capita income. (See NationMaster) While it may seem to ease the financial burden of subsidies and debt, what would it do to the general public? The first issue that comes to mind is how the citizens will have to deal – socio-economically. How will this price hike be translated into consumer prices? Will consumers be able to keep up with the (presumed) price hikes? What is the government doing to ensure consumers will still be able to afford energy price increase?
Then, there’s the question of what the market rates entail. I wonder if Malaysia’s economic system is sophisticated enough to deal with energy price fluctuations. In keeping with political tradition, I also wonder if our political system is mature enough to handle the changes without significant damage to the populace – since it would seem that idealogically, our government takes on the role of the caretaker of the people.
So what exactly is being done? Time for me to go back to the Malaysian press – and find out.